Public Lecture: Banker to the Poor – Lifting Millions Out of Poverty through Social Business (Muhammad Yunus)

Muhammad Yunus delivered a lecture on the evening of Monday 20th May entitled Banker to the Poor: Lifting Millions out of Poverty through Social Business. As the title suggests, Professor Yunus advocated a social business model, a concept that describes socially-driven commercial activity, using a series of examples from his microfinance initiative known as the ‘Grameen Bank’. These included Grameen Danone, a joint social business venture between Grameen and Danone Foods to address the issue of malnutrition among children in Bangladesh.

Another example cited was a collaboration between Grameen and Velio Water to supply water to rural communities in Bangladesh with the aim of selling 10 litres of water for 1 Bangladeshi taka (1 euro cent). Yunus further talked about his partnership with German sports company Adidas to make affordable shoes for the poor in Bangladesh at the cost of no more than 1 euro. In addition to a series of social enterprises in Bangladesh, Professor Yunus discussed work that his bank has undertaken in Haiti following the devastating earthquake of 2010. Among social business programmes in Haiti, he spoke of interventions in salt and poultry, the latter in a joint partnership with Brazil.

Yunus concluded his speech by emphasising that poverty like unemployment is a man-made phenomenon that can and should be a thing of the past. He noted that in order to make this happen, there was a need to engage in what he termed ‘social fiction’, imagining a world without poverty in the same way that science fiction allows us to imagine alternative futures of possibility. This would then allow us to use our vast creative capacities to overturn worldwide poverty.

Watch the video below, or listen to the audio on the LSE events page. Both the video and the audio are available to download on the LSE events page.

Muhammad Yunus was born on 28 June 1940 in the village of Bathua, Chittagong, a seaport in Bangladesh. The third of fourteen children, he was educated at Dhaka University and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study economics at Vanderbilt University. He then served as chairman of the economics department at Chittagong University before devoting his life to providing financial and social services to the poorest of the poor. He is the founder of Grameen Bank, serving as managing director until May 2011. Yunus is the author of the bestselling Banker to the Poor. In October 2006, Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Grameen Bank, for their efforts to create economic and social development. Muhammad Yunus was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science (Economics) by LSE in November 2011. In April 2013 he received the US Congressional Gold Medal.

The Grameen Bank originated in 1976 and was formally set up in 1983. There are 8.5 million borrowers in Bangladesh of which 97% comprise women. Further branches have been set up in New York, Indianapolis and Los Angeles.

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